Fred Darling Stakes (Group 3
Fred Darling Stakes (Group 3)
For all that the Fred Darling has produced some smart performers in the past, they’ve rarely had much of a say in the fillies’ classics, with the 2009 winner Lahaleeb being the last filly to really make her presence felt but that wasn’t until the Irish 1,000 where she went down by a head to Again.
This year’s edition was arguably won by a better animal than in previous years with Alcohol Free arriving here off the back of an impressive victory in the Cheveley Park on her last start as a 2-year-old. She made heavy work of it on this occasion but didn’t enjoy the easiest of trips, leaning into Liberated Lady throughout the early stages to get some cover behind Umm Kulthum to no real avail. Then, widest of all, she made smart progress to get to the lead without extending away from them and probably needed Statement to come to her to eek more out of her at the finish, with the pair pulling away and hitting the line in a head bobbing finish. That rival had a much nicer time of it, sat in behind the leaders with plenty of cover throughout and produced almost to perfection by William Buick, finishing just a short head behind the well supported favourite.
As much as they like Alcohol Free, I have a real sense that she’ll be back over sprint distances before long and the daughter of No Nay Never might just find a strongly run mile a bit too much for all she was a gallant winner of the Fred Darling. Statement could be interesting at an each-way price given she’s done very little wrong throughout her career, never out of the first two in four starts, and being out of a mare who stayed 1m4f+, the step up to a mile could bring even more out of her.
Vadream and Primo Bacio were both huge prices on the day but arguably put up the most eye-catching performances, both staying on takingly in the final furlong or so from very unpromising positions. Last and second to last throughout the first half of the race, they both handled the very decent pace set by the leaders and picked up the pieces in equally smart fashion on either side of the track. Of the two, Vadream is the only one going to the Guineas and as much as the race may have fallen into her lap, with the prominent runners fading late on, another furlong looks like it could be right up her street and she could well run a big race at a big price - although there may be one or two classier types in there ahead of her.
Nell Gwyn Stakes (Group 3)
The Nell Gwyn by contrast has been a fairly useful 1,000 Guineas trial with fillies such as Speciosa and Sky Lantern both featuring here before scoring on the first weekend in May and it’s also produced its share of placed horses with Maqaasid, Daban and 2019 Guineas favourite all filling the third spot.
This year the Cheveley Park Stud filly Sacred threw her hat into the ring with a really impressive victory on her first step up to 7-furlongs, quickly accounting for the efforts of Saffron Beach and Chocoya with Love Is You unable to lay a glove on the daughter of Exceed And Excel. Barring an unusually poor performance in the Cheveley Park on her final start as a 2-year-old, this filly had been oh so consistent over sprint trips, with seconds in the Queen Mary, Lowther and Flying Childers. The step up to 7 furlongs for a first time was a huge question mark but she answered it with flying colours, travelling calmly in behind runners and moved menacingly into contention when the going got tough. Ryan Moore pulled the filly out just before the furlong pole and quickened into the lead like a good thing before idling close to home.
There’s normally a feeling that the Nell Gwyn isn’t a great race but on this occasion I think we could have a different story with Saffron Beach and Love Is You giving the run plenty of credibility, and Chocoya (4th) only just getting touched off in Listed company last night. The biggest fear is whether Sacred has another furlong in her but normally you’d be a bit wary of the horse running too freely when stepped up in trip but she seemed to take the 7-furlong gallop in her stride and it bodes well for getting the mile trip. She didn’t hit the line as though she’d want much further but ears pricked, she seemed to idle as the line approached and given a similar ride, produced late, she really could be a force to be reckoned with.
The most recent Greenham winners to follow up at Newmarket are Frankel in 2011 and Night Of Thunder who trailed in behind Kingman in the 2014 Greenham before reversing that form over the Rowley Mile. The race has since produced Ivawood and Barney Roy who’ve both gone onto place in the mile classic with a fair few also doing better for dropping back in distance, most notably Muhaarar back in 2015 and Tasleet in 2016 (albeit winning under very different circumstances).
This year Chindit claimed the honours cosily from surprise performer Mehmento who couldn’t hold off the late spurt from Richard Hannon’s colt. The son of Wootton Bassett looked to be making fairly heavy weather of it with a furlong to go but the further they went, the more he looked like the winner, and he duly got well on top close home. He’s a smart travelling sort who is bound to improve for that effort and with only one blip on his resume when looking nothing like himself in the Dewhurst last year, he looks an uncomplicated sort who could well threaten the protagonists come Guineas day.
In behind, The Lir Jet played a massive role in the finish for a horse who I think is destined for shorter trips, he really toughed it out to work Chindit and Mehmento right to the line and was probably just outstayed in the final half of a furlong or so. Mehmento was obviously the other big eye-catcher on the day, he helped to force a decent gallop with Nando Parrado and as that rival dwindled, he really stuck his neck out and fought gallantly to the line. Class probably beat him on the day but if he’s able to replicate that he could well have a decent race in him down the line.
Nando Parrado, Alkumait and Rhythm Master gave the impression they weren’t on their A-game that day but also might be more comfortable returned to shorter trips themselves.
The Craven Stakes is run over the same track and trip as the 2,000 Guineas but it hasn’t produced a winner since Haafhd took both back in 2004. As worrying as that record may be, it’s a race that has produced many top quality performers with Masar, Toronado and Twice Over all going onto much bigger and better things.
This year actually looks a very useful renewal as the two Godolphin colts pulled well clear of the rest and the winner, Master Of The Seas, displayed plenty of speed to eclipse the efforts of stablemate La Barrosa, taking his record at Newmarket to an impressive three from three in the process. His clear affinity for the course will stand him in good stead come Guineas day and if reproducing that blistering turn of foot, he’s going to be very tricky to hold off.
La Barrosa could be an interesting proposition on a more conventional track and is definitely worth keeping an eye on having done well despite looking unbalanced at times, giving the winner plenty to think about and without him would have made a very ready winner.
The Rosstafarian also looks a colt with a bright future. Having looked outpaced with 2 furlongs to go, the leggy colt took a while to get his act together before staying on sprightly widest of all after the race had already been won. That was only his third start so he was entitled to still be green but he still managed to show a great deal of promise behind some smart performers and should be plenty better with that experience under his belt.